Turns out I was not quite done with the TH01 Anniversary Edition yet.
You might have noticed some white streaks at the beginning of Sariel's
second form, which are in fact a bug that I accidentally added to the
These can be traced back to a quirk
I wasn't aware of, and hadn't documented so far. When defeating Sariel's
first form during a pattern that spawns pellets, it's likely for the second
form to start with additional pellets that resemble the previous pattern,
but come out of seemingly nowhere. This shouldn't really happen if you look
at the code: Nothing outside the typical pattern code spawns new pellets,
and all existing ones are reset before the form transition…
Except if they're currently showing the 10-frame delay cloud
animation , activated for all pellets during the symmetrical radial 2-ring
pattern in Phase 2 and left activated for the rest of the fight. These
pellets will continue their animation after the transition to the second
form, and turn into regular pellets you have to dodge once their animation
By itself, this is just one more quirk to keep in mind during refactoring.
It only turned into a bug in the Anniversary Edition because the game tracks
the number of living pellets in a separate counter variable. After resetting
all pellets, this counter is simply set to 0, regardless of any delay cloud
pellets that may still be alive, and it's merely incremented or decremented
when pellets are spawned or leave the playfield.
In the original game, this counter is only used as an optimization to skip
spawning new pellets once the cap is reached. But with batched
EGC-accelerated unblitting, it also makes sense to skip the rather costly
setup and shutdown of the EGC if no pellets are active anyway. Except if the
counter you use to check for that case can be 0 even if there are
pellets alive, which consequently don't get unblitted…
There is an optimal fix though: Instead of unconditionally resetting the
living pellet counter to 0, we decrement it for every pellet that
does get reset. This preserves the quirk and gives us a
consistently correct counter, allowing us to still skip every unnecessary
loop over the pellet array.
Ultimately, this was a harmless bug that didn't affect gameplay, but it's
still something that players would have probably reported a few more times.
So here's a free bugfix:
128 commits! Who would have thought that the ideal first release of the TH01
Anniversary Edition would involve so much maintenance, and raise so many
research questions? It's almost as if the real work only starts after
the 100% finalization mark… Once again, I had to steal some funding from the
reserved JIS trail word pushes to cover everything I liked to research,
which means that the next towards the
anything goal will repay this debt. Luckily, this doesn't affect any
immediate plans, as I'll be spending March with tasks that are already fully
So, how did this end up so massive? The list of things I originally set out
to do was pretty short:
Build entire game into single executable
Fix rendering issues in the one or two most important parts of the game
for a good initial impression
But even the first point already started with tons of little cleanup
commits. A part of them can definitely be blamed on the rush to hit the 100%
decompilation mark before the 25th anniversary last August.
However, all the structural changes that I can't commit to
master reveal how much of a mess the TH01 codebase actually
Merging the executables is mainly difficult because of all the
inconsistencies between REIIDEN.EXE and FUUIN.EXE.
The worst parts can be found in the REYHI*.DAT format code and
the High Score menu, but the little things are just as annoying, like how
the current score is an unsigned variable in
REIIDEN.EXE, but a signed one in FUUIN.EXE.
If it takes me this long and this many
commits just to sort out all of these issues, it's no wonder that the only
thing I've seen being done with this codebase since TH01's 100%
decompilation was a single porting attempt that ended in a rather quick
So why are we merging the executables in preparation for the Anniversary
Edition, and not waiting with it until we start doing ports?
Distributing and updating one executable is cleaner than doing the same
with three, especially as long as installation will still involve manually
dropping the new binary into the game directory.
The Anniversary Edition won't be the only fork binary. We are already
going to start out with a separate DEBLOAT.EXE that contains
only the bloat removal changes without any bug fixes, and spaztron64
will probably redo his seizure-less edition. We don't want to clutter
the game directory with three binaries for each of these fork builds, and we
especially don't want to remember things like oh, but this fork
only modifies REIIDEN.EXE…
All forks should run side-by-side with the original game. During the
time I was maintaining thcrap, I've had countless bug reports of people
assuming that thcrap was
responsible for bugs that were present in the original game, and the
same is certain to happen with the Anniversary Edition. Separate binaries
will make it easier for everyone to check where these bugs came from.
Also, I'd like to make a point about how bloated the original
three-executable structure really is, since I've heard people defending it
as neat software architecture. Really, even in Real Mode where you typically
want to use as little of the 640 KiB of conventional memory as possible, you
don't want to split your game up like this.
The game actually is so bloated that the combined binary ended up
smaller than the original REIIDEN.EXE. If all you see are the
file sizes of the original three executables, this might look like a
pretty impressive feat. Like, how can we possibly get 407,812
bytes into less than 238,612 bytes, without using compression?
If you've ever looked at the linker map though, it's not at all surprising.
Excluding the aforementioned inconsistencies that are hard to quantify,
OP.EXE and FUUIN.EXE only feature 5,767 and 6,475
bytes of unique code and data, respectively. All other code in these
binaries is already part of REIIDEN.EXE, with more than half of
the size coming from the Borland C++ runtime. The single worst offender here
is the C++ exception handler that Borland forces
onto every non-.COM binary by default, which alone adds 20,512 bytes
even if your binary doesn't use C++ exceptions.
On a more hilarious note, this
single line is responsible for pulling another unnecessary 14,242 bytes
into OP.EXE and FUUIN.EXE. This floating-point
multiplication is completely unnecessary in this context because all
possible parameters are integers, but it's enough for Turbo C++ and TLINK to
pull in the entire x87 FPU emulation machinery. These two binaries don't
even draw lines, but since this function is part of the general
graphics code translation unit and contains other functions that these
binaries do need, TLINK links in the entire thing. Maybe, multiple
executables aren't the best choice either if you use a linker that can't do
dead code elimination…
Since the 📝 Orb's physics do turn the entire
precision of a double variable into gameplay effects, it's not
feasible to ever get rid of all FPU code in TH01. The exception handler,
be removed, which easily brings the combined binary below the size of
the original REIIDEN.EXE. Compiling all code with a single set
of compiler optimization flags, including the more x86-friendly
pascal calling convention, then gets us a few more KB on top.
As does, of course, removing unused code: The only remaining purpose of
features such as 📝 resident palettes is to
potentially make porting more difficult for anyone who doesn't immediately
realize that nothing in the game uses these functions.
Technically, all unused code would be bloat, but for now, I'm keeping
the parts that may tell stories about the game's development history (such
as unused effects or the 📝 mouse cursor), or
that might help with debugging. Even with that in mind, I've only scratched
the surface when it comes to bloat removal, and the binary is only going to
get smaller from here. A lot smaller.
If only we now could start MDRV98 from this new combined binary, we wouldn't
need a second batch file either…
Which brings us to the first big research question of this delivery. Using
the C spawn() function works fine on this compiler, so
spawn("MDRV98.COM") would be all we need to do, right? Except
that the game crashes very soon after that subprocess returned.
So it's not going to be that easy if the spawned process is a TSR.
But why should this be a problem? Let's take a look at the DOS heap, and how
DOS lays out processes in conventional memory if we launch the game
regularly through GAME.BAT:
The batch file starts MDRV98 first, which will therefore end up below
the game in conventional memory. This is perfect for a TSR: The program can
resize itself arbitrarily before returning to DOS, and the rest of memory
will be left over for the game. If we assume such a layout, a DOS program
can implement a custom memory allocator in a very simple way, as it only has
to search for free memory in one direction – and this is exactly how Borland
implemented the C heap for functions like malloc() and
free(), and the C++ new and delete
But if we spawn MDRV98 after starting TH01, well…
MDRV98 will spawn in the next free memory location, allocate itself, return
to TH01… which suddenly finds its C heap blocked from growing. As a result,
the next big allocation will immediately fail with a rather misleading "out
of memory" error.
While DOS uses 16 bytes rather than Borland's 4 bytes for the control
structure of each memory block, this larger size automatically aligns all
allocations to 16-byte boundaries. Therefore, all allocation addresses would
fit into 16-bit segment-only pointers rather than needing 32-bit
far ones. On the Borland heap, the 4-byte header further limits
regular far pointers to 65,532 bytes, forcing you into
expensive huge pointers for bigger allocations.
Debuggers in DOS emulators typically have features to show and manage
the DOS heap. No need for custom debugging code.
You can change the memory placement
strategy to allocate from the top of conventional memory down to the
bottom. This is how the games allocate their resident structures.
Ultimately though, the drawbacks became too significant. Most of them are
related to the PC-98 Touhou games only ever creating a single DOS
process, even though they contain multiple executables.
Switching executables is done via exec(), which resizes a
program's main allocation to match the new binary and then overwrites the
old program image with the new one. If you've ever wondered why DOSBox-X
only ever shows OP as the active process name in the title bar,
you now know why. As far as DOS is concerned, it's still the same
OP.EXE process rooted at the same segment, and
exec() doesn't bother rewriting the name either. Most
importantly though, this is how REIIDEN.EXE can launch into
another REIIDEN.EXE process even if there are less than 238,612
bytes free when exec() is called, and without consuming more
memory for every successive binary.
For now, ANNIV.EXE still re-exec()s itself at
every point where the original game did, as ZUN's original code really
depends on being reinitialized at boss and scene boundaries. The resulting
accidental semi-hot reloading is also a useful property to retain
So why is the DOS heap a bad idea for regular game allocation after all?
Even DOS automatically releases all memory associated with a process
during its termination. But since we keep running the same process until the
player quits out of the main menu, we lose the C heap's implicit cleanup on
exec(), and have to manually free all memory ourselves.
Since the binary can be larger after hot reloading, we in fact have
to allocate all regular memory using the last fit strategy.
Otherwise, exec() fails to resize the program's main block for
the same reason that crashed the game on our initial attempt to
Just like Borland's heap implementation, the DOS heap stores its control
structures immediately before each allocation, forming a singly linked list.
But since the entire OS shares this single list, corruptions from heap
overflows also affect the whole system, and become much more disastrous.
Theoretically, it might be possible to recover from them by forcibly
releasing all blocks after the last correct one, or even by doing a
brute-force search for valid memory
control blocks, but in reality, DOS will likely just throw error code #7
(ERROR_ARENA_TRASHED) on the next memory management syscall,
forcing a reboot.
With a custom allocator, small corruptions remain isolated to the process.
They can be even further limited if the process adds some padding between
its last internal allocation and the end of the allocated DOS memory block;
Borland's heap sort of does this as well by always rounding up the DOS block
to a full KiB. All this might not make a difference in today's emulated and
single-tasked usage, but would have back then when software was still
developed inside IDEs running on the same system.
TH01's debug mode uses heapcheck() and
heapchecknode(), and reimplementing these on top of the DOS
heap is not trivial. On the contrary, it would be the most complicated part
of such a wrapper, by far.
I could release this DOS heap wrapper in unused form for another push if
anyone's interested, but for now, I'm pretty happy with not actually using
it in the games. Instead, let's stay with the Borland C heap, and find a way
to push MDRV98 to the very top of conventional RAM. Like this:
Which is much easier said than done. It would be nice if we could just use
the last fit allocation strategy here, but .COM executables always
receive all free memory by default anyway, which eliminates any difference
between the strategies.
But we can still change memory itself. So let's temporarily claim all
remaining free memory, minus the exact amount we need for MDRV98, for our
process. Then, the only remaining free space to spawn MDRV98 is at the exact
place where we want it to be:
Now we only need to know how much memory to not temporarily allocate. First,
we need to replicate the assumption that MDRV98's -M7
command-line parameter corresponds to a resident size of 23,552 bytes. This
is not as bad as it seems, because the -M parameter explicitly
has a KiB unit, and we can nicely abstract it away for the API.
The (env.) block though? Its minimum size equals the combined length
of all environment variables passed to the process, but its maximum size is…
not limited at all?! As in, DOS implementations can add and have
historically added more free space because some programs insisted on storing
their own new environment variables in this exact segment. DOSBox and
DOSBox-X follow this tradition by providing a configuration option for the
additional amount of environment space, with the latter adding 1024
additional bytes by default, y'know, just in case someone wants to compile
FreeDOS on a slow emulator. It's not even worth sending a bug report for
this specific case, because it's only a symptom of the fact that
unexpectedly large program environment blocks can and will happen, and are
to be expected in DOS land.
So thanks to this cruel joke, it's technically impossible to achieve what we
want to do there. Hooray! The only thing we can kind of do here is an
educated guess: Sum up the length of all environment variables in our
environment block, compare that length against the allocated size of the
block, and assume that the MDRV98 process will get as much additional memory
as our process got. 🤷
The remaining hurdles came courtesy of some Borland C runtime implementation
details. You would think that the temporary reallocation could even be done
in pure C using the sbrk(), coreleft(), and
brk() functions, but all values passed to or returned from
these functions are inaccurate because they don't factor in the
aforementioned KiB padding to the underlying DOS memory block. So we have to
directly use the DOS syscalls after all. Which at least means that learning
about them wasn't completely useless…
The final issue is caused inside Borland's
spawn() implementation. The environment block for the
child process is built out of all the strings reachable from C's
environ pointer, which is what that FreeDOS build process
should have used. Coalescing them into a single buffer involves yet
another C heap allocation… and since we didn't report our DOS memory block
manipulation back to the C heap, the malloc() call might think
it needs to request more memory from DOS. This resets the DOS memory block
back to its intended level, undoing our manipulation right before the actual
INT 21h, AH=4Bh
EXEC syscall. Or in short:
Manipulate DOS heap ➜ spawn() call ➜_LoadProg() ➜ allocate and prepare environment block ➜ _spawn() ➜ DOS EXEC syscall
The obvious solution: Replace _LoadProg(), implement the
coalescing ourselves, and do it before the heap manipulation. Fortunately,
Borland's internal low-level _spawn() function is not
static, so we can call it ourselves whenever we want to:
Allocate and prepare environment block ➜ manipulate DOS heap ➜ _spawn() call ➜EXEC syscall
So yes, launching MDRV98 from C can be done, but it involves advanced
witchcraft and is completely ridiculous.
Launching external sound drivers from a batch file is the right way
of doing things.
Fortunately, you don't have to rely on this auto-launching feature. You can
still launch DEBLOAT.EXE or ANNIV.EXE from a batch
file that launched MDRV98.COM before, and the binaries will
detect this case and skip the attempt of launching MDRV98 from C. It's
unlikely that my heuristic will ever break, but I definitely recommend
replicating GAME.BAT just to be completely sure – especially
for user-friendly repacks that don't want to include the original game
This is also why ANNIV.EXE doesn't launch
ZUNSOFT.COM: The "correct" and stable way to launch
ANNIV.EXE still involves a batch file, and I would say that
expecting people to remove ZUNSOFT.COM from that file is worse
than not playing the animation. It's certainly a debate we can have, though.
This deep dive into memory allocation revealed another previously
undocumented bug in the original game. The RLE decompression code for the
東方靈異.伝 packfile contains two heap overflows, which are
actually triggered by SinGyoku's BOSS1_3.BOS and Konngara's
BOSS8_1.BOS. They only do not immediately crash the game when
loading these bosses thanks to two implementation details of Borland's C
Obviously, this is a bug we should fix, but according to the definition of
bugs, that fix would be exclusive to the anniversary branch.
Isn't that too restrictive for something this critical? This code is
guaranteed to blow up with a different heap implementation, if only in a
Debug build. And besides, nobody would notice a fix
just by looking at the game's rendered output…
Looks like we have to introduce a fourth category of weird code, in addition
to the previous bloat, bug, and quirk categories, for
invisible internal issues like these. Let's call it landmine, and fix
them on the debloated branch as well. Thanks to
Clerish for the naming inspiration!
With this new category, the full definitions for all categories have become
quite extensive. Thus, they now live in CONTRIBUTING.md
inside the ReC98 repository.
With the new discoveries and the new landmine category, TH01 is now at 67
bugs and 20 landmines. And the solution for the landmine in question? Simplifying
the 61 lines of the original code down to 16. And yes, I'm including
comments in these numbers – if the interactions of the code are complex
enough to require multi-paragraph comments, these are a necessary and
valid part of the code.
While we're on the topic of weird code and its visible or invisible effects,
there's one thing you might be concerned about. With all the rearchitecting
and data shifting we're doing on the debloated branch, what
will happen to the 📝 negative glitch stages?
These are the result of a clearly observable bug that, by definition, must
not be fixed on the debloated branch. But given that the
observable layout of the glitch stages is defined by the memory
surrounding the scene stage variable, won't the
debloated branch inherently alter their appearance (= ⚠️
fanfiction ⚠️), or even remove them completely?
Well, yes, it will. But we can still preserve their layout by
the exact original data that the game would originally read, and even emulate
the original segment relocations and other pieces of global data.
Doing this is feasible thanks to the fact that there are only 4 glitch
stages. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the timer values, which
are determined by an array lookup with the un-modulo'd stage ID. If we
wanted to preserve those as well, we'd have to bundle an exact copy of the
original REIIDEN.EXE data segment to preserve the values of all
32,768 negative stages you could possibly enter, together with a map
of all relocations in this segment. 😵 Which I've decided against for now,
since this has been going on for far too long already. Let's first see if
anyone ever actually complains about details like this…
Alright, time to start the anniversary branch by rendering
everything at its correct internal unaligned X position? Eh… maybe not quite
yet. If we just hacked all the necessary bit-shifting code into all the
format-specific blitting functions, we'd still retain all this largely
redundant, bad, and slow code, and would make no progress in terms of
portability. It'd be much better to first write a single generic blitter
that's decently optimized, but supports all kinds of sprites to make this
optimization actually worth something.
So, next research question: How would such a blitter look like? After I
learned during my
📝 first foray into cycle counting that port
I/O is slow on 486 CPUs, it became clear that TH04's
📝 GRCG batching for pellets was one of the
more useful optimizations that probably contributed a big deal towards
achieving the high bullet counts of that game. This leads to two
master.lib's super_*() sprite functions are slow, and not
worth looking at for inspiration. Even the 📝 tiny format reinitializes the GRCG on every color change, wasting 80
Hence, our low-level blitting API should not even care about colors. It
should only concern itself with blitting a given 1bpp sprite to a single
VRAM segment. This way, it can work for both 4-plane sprites and
single-plane sprites, and just assume that the GRCG is active.
What we should do, however, are some further general optimizations that I
would have expected from master.lib: Unrolling the vertical
loop, and baking a single function for every sprite width to eliminate
the horizontal loop. We can then use the widest possible x86
MOV instruction for the lowest possible number of cycles per
row – for example, we'd blit a 56-wide sprite with three MOVs
(32-bit + 16-bit + 8-bit), and a 64-wide one with two 32-bit
Or maybe not? There's a lot of blitting code in both master.lib and PC-98
Touhou that checks for empty bytes within sprites to skip needlessly writing
them to VRAM:
That's a single CPU instruction, compared to two instructions and two
branches. The only possible explanation for this would be that VRAM writes
are so slow on PC-98 that you'd want to avoid them at all costs, even
if that means additional branching on the CPU to do so. Or maybe that was
something you would want to do on certain models with slow VRAM, but not on
So I wrote a benchmark to answer all these questions, and to compare my new
blitter against typical TH01 blitting code:
Amount of frames required to render 2000 16×8 pellet sprites on a variety of
PC-98 models, using the new generic blitter. Both preshifted (first column)
and runtime-shifted (second column) sprites were tested; empty columns
correspond to times faster than a single frame. Thanks to cuba200611,
Shoutmon, cybermind, and Digmac for running the tests!
The key takeaways:
Checking for empty bytes has never been a good idea.
Preshifting sprites made a small difference on the 286, but it kind of
stopped mattering as of the 386, and makes no difference on Pentium models.
The memory tradeoff is especially not worth it for 4-plane sprites, given
that you would have to preshift each of the 4 planes.
You might want to use MOVS instead of MOV when
targeting the 286 and 386, but the performance gains are barely worth the
resulting mess you would make out of your blitting code. On Pentium models,
there is no difference.
Use the GRCG whenever you have to render lots of things that share a
static 8×1 pattern.
These are the PC-98 models that the people who are willing to test your
newly written PC-98 code actually use.
Since this won't be the only piece of game-independent and explicitly
PC-98-specific custom code involved in this delivery, it makes sense to
dedicated PC-98 platform layer. This code will gradually eliminate the
dependency on master.lib and replace it with better optimized and more
readable C++ code. The blitting benchmark, for example, is already
implemented completely without master.lib.
While this platform layer is mainly written to generate optimal code within
Turbo C++ 4.0J, it can also serve as general PC-98 documentation for
everyone who prefers code over machine-translating old Japanese books. Not
to mention the immediacy of having all actual relevant information in
one place, which might otherwise be pretty well hidden in these books, or
some obscure old text file. For example, did you know that uploading gaiji
via INT 18h might end up disabling the VSync interrupt trigger,
deadlocking the process on the next frame delay loop? This nuisance is not
replicated by any emulators, and it's quite frustrating to encounter it when
trying to run your code on real hardware. master.lib works around it by
simply hooking INT 18h and unconditionally reenabling the VSync
interrupt trigger after the original handler returns, and so does our
So, with the pellet draw calls batched and routed through the new renderer,
we should have gained enough free CPU cycles to disable
📝 interlaced pellet rendering without any
impact on frame rates?
Well, kinda. We do get 56.4 FPS, but only together with noticeable and
reproducible tearing in the top part of the playfield, suggesting exactly
why ZUN interlaced the rendering in the first place. 😕 So have we
already reached the limit of single-buffered PC-98 games here, or can we
still do something about it?
As it turns out, the main bottleneck actually lies in the pellet
unblitting code. Every EGC-"accelerated" unblitting call in TH01 is
as unbatched as the pellet blitting calls were, spending an additional 17
I/O port writes per call to completely set up and shut down the EGC, every
time. And since this is TH01, the two-instruction operation of changing the
active PC-98 VRAM page isn't inlined either, but instead done via a function
call to a faraway segment. On the 486, that's:
>341 cycles for EGC setup and teardown, plus
>72 cycles for each 16-pixel chunk to be unblitted. This sums up
>917 cycles of completely unnecessary work for every active pellet,
in the optimal 50% of cases where it lies on an even VRAM byte,
>1493 cycles if it lies on an odd VRAM byte, because ZUN's code
extends the unblitted rectangle to a gargantuan 32×8 pixels in this case
And this calculation even ignores the lack of small micro-optimizations that
could further optimize the blitting loop. Multiply that by the game's pellet
cap of 100, and we get a 6-digit number of wasted CPU cycles. On
paper, that's roughly 1/6 of the time we have for each
of our target 56.423 FPS on the game's target 33 MHz systems. Might not
sound all too critical, but the single-buffered nature of the game means
that we're effectively racing the beam on every frame. In turn, we have to
be even more serious about performance.
So, time to also add a batched EGC API to our PC-98 platform layer? Writing
our own EGC code presents a nice opportunity to finally look deeper into all
its registers and configuration options, and see what exactly we can do
about ZUN's enforced 16-pixel alignment.
To nobody's surprise, this alignment is completely unnecessary, and only
displays a lack of knowledge about the chip. While it is true that
the EGC wants VRAM to be exclusively addressed in 16-bit chunks at
16-bit-aligned addresses, it specifically provides
an address register (0x4AC) for shifting the horizontal
start offsets of the source and destination to any pixel within the
16 pixels of such a chunk,
and a bit length register (0x4AE) for specifying the total
width of pixels to be transferred, which also implies the correct end
And it gets even better: After ⌈bitlength ÷ 16⌉ write
instructions, the EGC's internal shifter state automatically reinitializes
itself in preparation for blitting another row of pixels with the same
initially configured bit addresses and length. This is perfect for blitting
rectangles, as two I/O port writes before the start of your blitting loop
are enough to define your entire rectangle.
The manual nature of reading and writing in 16-pixel chunks does come with a
slight pitfall though. If the source bit address is larger than the
destination bit address, the first 16-bit read won't fill the EGC's internal
shift register with all pixels that should appear in the first 16-pixel
destination chunk. In this case, the EGC simply won't write anything and
leave the first chunk unchanged. In a
📝 regular blitting loop, however, you expect
that memory to be written and immediately move on to the next chunks within
the row. As a result, the actual blitting process for such a rectangle will
no longer be aligned to the configured address and bit length. The first row
of the rectangle will appear 16 pixels to the right of the destination
address, and the second one will start at bit offset 0 with pixels from the
rightmost byte of the first line, which weren't blitted and remained in the
There is an easy solution though: Before the horizontal loop on each line of
the rectangle, simply read one additional 16-pixel chunk from the source
location to prefill the shift register. Thankfully, it's large enough to
also fit the second read of the then full 16 pixels, without dropping any
pixels along the way.
And that's how we get arbitrarily unaligned rectangle copies with the EGC!
Except for a small register allocation trick to use two-register addressing,
there's not much use in further optimizations, as the runtime of these
inter-page blit operations is dominated by the VRAM page switches anyway.
Except that T98-Next seems to disagree about the register prefilling issue:
Every other emulator agrees with real hardware in this regard, so we can
safely assume this to be a bug in T98-Next. Just in case this old emulator
with its last release from June 2010 still has any fans left nowadays… For
now though, even they can still enjoy the TH01 Anniversary Edition: The only
EGC copy algorithm that TH01 actually needs is the left one during the
single-buffered tests, which even that emulator gets right.
That only leaves
📝 my old offer of documenting the EGC raster ops,
and we've got the EGC figured out completely!
And that did in fact remove tearing from the pellet rendering function! For
the first time, we can now fight Elis, Kikuri, Sariel, and Konngara with a
doubled pellet frame rate:
With only pellets and no other animation on screen, this exact pattern
presents the optimal demonstration case for the new unblitter. But as you
can already tell from the invincibility sprites, we'd also need to route
every other kind of sprite through the same new code. This isn't all too
trivial: Most sprites are still rendered at byte-aligned positions, and
their blitting APIs hide that fact by taking a pixel position regardless.
This is why we can't just replace ZUN's original 16-pixel-aligned EGC
unblitting function with ours, and always have to replace both the blitter
and the unblitter on a per-sprite basis.
To completely remove all flickering, we'd also like to get rid of all the
sprite-specific unblit ➜ update ➜ render sequences, and instead
gather all unblitting code to the beginning of the game loop, before any
update and rendering calls. So yeah, it will take a long time to completely
get rid of all flickering. Until we're there, I recommend any backer to tell
me their favorite boss, so that I can focus on getting that one
rendered without any flickering. Remember that here at ReC98, we can have a
Touhou character popularity contest at any time during the year, whenever
the store is open!
In the meantime, the consistent use of 8×8 rectangles during pellet
unblitting does significantly reduce both flickering across the entire game,
and shrinks certain holes that pellets tend to rip into lazily reblitted
To round out the first release, I added all the other bug fixes to achieve
parity with my previously released patched REIIDEN.EXE builds:
So here it is, the first build of TH01's Anniversary Edition:
2023-03-05-th01-anniv.zip Edit (2023-03-12): If you're playing on Neko Project and seeing more
flickering than in the original game, make sure you've checked the Screen
→ Disp vsync option.
Next up: The long overdue extended trip through the depths of TH02's
low-level code. From what I've seen of it so far, the work on this project
is finally going to become a bit more relaxing. Which is quite welcome
after, what, 6 months of stressful research-heavy work?